How the UN Began
The first plans for the United Nations were made during World War II by the U.S. Department of State. In 1943, at the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers, U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull persuaded the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of China to agree to the establishment of an international organization, open to all peace-loving nations, to work for world peace and security. The following year at the Dumbarton Oaks conference in Washington, D.C., representatives from the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the Republic of China, and the United States agreed on a plan based on the U.S. State Department's earlier proposals. Then, in February 1945, while meeting in Yalta in the Soviet Union, representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union agreed to hold a conference in San Francisco to establish the new organization. All of the nations in World War II that were allied against the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, and Italy) would be invited to attend, and a charter would be drafted.

The United Nations Conference on International Organization met in San Francisco between April 25 and June 26, 1945, with 50 nations represented. The San Francisco Conference was not a peace conference—World War II was not yet over. Rather, it was intended to form an organization that would ensure peace in the world after the war had ended.

Work at the conference began with a discussion of the proposals made at the Dumbarton Oaks conference, additional proposals of the sponsoring powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of China, and the Soviet Union), and other proposals and suggestions. A charter was drafted to set forth the principles on which the organization would be based. Many of the ideas in the charter were based on the League of Nations and other international organizations. The final draft of the charter was submitted to the conference for approval. Although the representatives of all the participating nations had a say in shaping the charter, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union had the most influence over its creation. The charter came into force on October 24, 1945, a date now celebrated as United Nations Day.

Leland Goodrich
Author, The United Nations

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